KUCHING: All schools in Covid-19 red zones in Sarawak will be closed for two weeks starting Tuesday (April 20), says Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
The Chief Minister said this was necessary to protect the health of students and local communities in view of Covid-19 infections in a number of schools.
"We notice that there have been outbreaks in some schools. Students can infect their parents or vice-versa and there are also cases of teachers getting infected.
"So the state government has decided to close all schools in red zones for 14 days," he told a press conference here Monday (April 19).
The decision comes amid growing calls for schools to be temporarily closed in areas experiencing a surge of Covid-19 cases.
On Sunday (April 18), the Miri divisional disaster management committee recommended the closure of schools in Miri, Subis and Beluru districts as 13% of their cumulative 3,253 Covid-19 cases were of school-going age.
Clusters involving schools in Tatau, Sibu and Selangau were also detected in recent days.
As of Sunday (April 18), 18 of Sarawak's 40 districts were categorised as red zones, or areas with more than 40 locally transmitted cases in the last 14 days. The districts are Belaga, Kanowit, Selangau, Saratok, Subis, Matu, Mukah, Sarikei, Beluru, Samarahan, Serian, Julau, Meradong, Kuching, Kapit, Bintulu, Miri and Sibu.
Abang Johari also said the police and other enforcement agencies were instructed to tighten inter-district travel controls from Monday (April 19).
He said inter-district travel was a main contributor to the current spread of Covid-19 in the state, leading to 506 positive cases and eight clusters since January.
"Therefore, starting today, only essential services are allowed to cross zones with the permission of the police," he said.
In addition, Abang Johari said businesses in red zones were only allowed to operate until 10pm.
He said this was in line with the state disaster management committee's decision to maintain the conditional movement control order (MCO) in Sarawak while implementing enhanced MCO in targeted areas.
"If we impose MCO, it will affect the economy and people's livelihoods. So we do targeted enhanced MCO and lock down areas where cases are high.
"Lately cases have spiked in certain areas such as the Semuja immigration depot and the police training centre, so we want to control that.
"But we open the economy so that people don't lose their jobs," he said.